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The Outcome of Wanting (Gay) Sex

Few mourned the downfall of Sen. Larry Craig. But what exactly did he do that was so wrong? And what kind of precedent has it set?
 
 
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SAN FRANCISCO -- I come to defend Larry Craig, not to bury him. He is a homophobe and a hypocrite. He is a holier-than-thou Senator with feet of toilet paper. But Larry Craig has been forced to resign his seat for all the wrong reasons.

Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell called Craig's conduct "unforgivable." Et tu Brute! Then falls Craig.

As far as I can make out from the audiotapes released between Craig and Sgt. Dave Karsnia, Larry Craig did not have sex with the police officer. Larry Craig did not expose himself a la George Michael. Larry Craig did not offer Dave Karsnia any money to have sex with him. Larry Craig didn't verbally ask Dave Karsnia to have sex with him.

Even taking the officer, described by MSNBC as a "compassionate man with diligent work ethics" at his word, all the senator did was stare at him through a crack in the toilet stall, tapped his shoe, touched his neighbor's foot and passed his hand underneath the stall in what is apparently some time-honored gay mating ritual.

So adding all of that up, all I can get is Larry Craig might have wanted to have sex with Dave Karsnia. Perhaps right there in the bathroom. Perhaps in a hotel room somewhere. And that is what Mitch McConnell calls "unforgivable."

If one person hitting on another person in a public place is a crime, then every singles bar in the country on a Friday night where shoe tapping does often occur is a hotspot of unforgivable crimes. It is America's stunning prudery that just the thought, the desire to have (gay) sex has been criminalized so that this man is blackballed, ostracized and forced to resign.

President Bush who has defended his incompetent Attorney General to the bitter end, never retracted his "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" about director of FEMA after the Katrina disaster, left a press conference without answering when asked if Larry Craig should resign. No one, it seems, wanted to touch the Idaho hot potato, except, of course, the poor stoic wife who had to stand by her man in humiliating press conferences.

I will praise Larry Craig for the courage to fight back and not just blame alcoholism and check into rehab. Unfortunately for the senator, so busy was he chanting his "I am not gay; I never have been gay," mantra he didn't leave himself any room to state the obvious truth, that the only thing he was really guilty of was wanting to have sex. What if when he passed the paper under the toilet stall he had just written on it "I'm Craggy69 on MSN Messenger. IM me 2nite"? Would that have constituted disturbing the peace?

On the other hand Louisiana Senator David Vitter's name showed up on the phone records of the "D.C. Madam," accused of running a prostitution ring in the capital. The good Senator even admitted that he was guilty of "a serious sin in (his) past." From that we might assume that unlike Larry Craig, Vitter actually had sex and unlike Craig again, paid for it.

Yet Vitter remains a senator. He was not forced off all his committees though his website claimed he was committed to "advancing mainstream conservative principles". He asked to keep the matter between "God and (his) family." It seems everyone obliged. Cynics among us might think that it was because the governor of Louisiana who would have appointed his replacement is a Democrat while the governor of Idaho is a Republican and apparently already has the Lieutenant-governor lined up to go to Washington D.C.

But I think the rot is deeper than just Senate arithmetic. Larry Craig, homophobe on the Senate floor is dying a death of a thousand cuts by homophobia disguised as non-judgmental fairness.

Gay activists are rejoicing at the fall of another homophobe, hoisted on his own petard, tripping over the skeleton in his own toilet stall. Activist Michelangelo Signorile who has defended the "outing" of anti-gay closeted public figures said in Newsweek, "For me, this is all about journalism and equalizing the reporting of homosexuality and heterosexuality."

But if there was a case of a radical discrepancy in how homosexual and heterosexual sex were treated by the media, it is Larry Craig vs. David Vitter. And while it's always gratifying when a hypocrite gets his comeuppance it's tragic that those activists rubbing their hands in schadenfreude didn't stop to note that gross inequality.

This is not about the right to have sex in a public place. Larry Craig is being sacrificed for the mere act of perhaps wanting to have sex. Nothing more. And that will come to haunt us all long after we have forgotten the unfortunate Senator from Idaho.

To paraphrase Mark Antony -

Little good is interred with Larry Craig's resignation.
But the evil that this precedent sets lives after it.

O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
Something has been lost in that toilet stall with Larry Craig,
And we must pause till it comes back to us.

Alas, I fear we will be waiting for a very long time.

Sandip Roy ( sandip@pacificnews.org) is host of "Upfront," the Pacific News Service weekly radio program on KALW-FM, San Francisco.

 
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